Keven Mealamu 'a little bit stink' over tackle of Brian O'Driscoll

Brian O'Driscoll goes off injured during the first test between the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions at Jade Stadium. Photo / Chris Skelton.
Brian O'Driscoll goes off injured during the first test between the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions at Jade Stadium. Photo / Chris Skelton.

Former All Black Keven Mealamu has opened up on his infamous spear-tackle on Brian O'Driscoll which ruled the Irishman out of the Lions 2005 tour.

O'Driscoll's tour was over after just 41 seconds after being injured in the opening test by Mealamu and Umaga and the incident still lingers in the mind of the All Blacks' hooker.

Mealamu told The Newsroom he still feels "a little bit stink" about the way things played out.

Mealamu was adamant he and Umaga never set out to injure O'Driscoll and said he wasn't even aware Umaga was on the other side of O'Driscoll when he went to drive him out of the ruck.

Mealamu said he didn't realise O'Driscoll was injured till play was stopped so he could be carried from the field.

"It's one of the reasons I didn't go back to see how he was because it happened so quickly and I had moved on," Mealamu told The Newsroom.

"I just thought it was a typical rugby movement till I realised Tana was on the side and we had tipped him up and he had landed on his shoulder."

The Herald looks back on the incident which ended O'Driscoll's tour and still remains a contentious talking point in world rugby. New Zealand beat the Lions comfortably in each test match to win the series 3-0.

What happened?


The Lions arrived in New Zealand with a huge entourage behind them and they were desperate to atone for their 2-1 series defeat in Australia four years earlier.

Sir Clive Woodward was head coach and after winning the 2003 World Cup with England down under, the Lions fancied their chances of winning their first test series in New Zealand since 1971.

The Lions hardly cruised through their warm up games and they were beaten 19-13 by the New Zealand Maori two weeks before the first test in Christchurch.

Jonny Wilkinson kicked off but the All Blacks were soon in the Lions' half and a ruck was formed close to the right touchline.

O'Driscoll was attempting to clear the ruck favourably for his own team but he was met by Mealamu and Umaga.

The ball cleared the ruck and O'Driscoll soon found himself upside-down in mid air and dangerously dumped to the floor by the two All Blacks.

The tackle ended his tour in the very first minute and he dislocated his right shoulder, forcing him out of the game for six months.

Mealamu and Umaga received no punishment on the field and O'Driscoll was stretchered off in agony. The All Blacks coasted to a comfortable win.

The aftermath


The Lions were very bitter and presented video evidence to push for sanctions for Mealamu and Umaga. Their appeals were futile as the pair escaped any retrospective punishment because there was no clear angle of O'Driscoll getting turned upside-down and no case to answer, according to the South African citing officer.

When Woodward complained, he was accused of taking the spotlight off the Lions poor showing in the first test. All the subsequent press conferences were, of course, held by NZRFU who were attempting to contain the row.

The Lions employed famous spin doctor Alistair Campbell for the tour but he couldn't push the Lions' claims any further.

Umaga branded O'Driscoll a "sook", slang for cry baby, and he claimed he was victimised in the media.

O'Driscoll described it as "deliberate foul play, dangerous, a cheap shot". He admitted he was "angry, cheated" and disappointed that fellow captain Umaga hadn't come over when he left the field on a stretcher.

In his book, Umaga said: "The sustained personal attack they (the Lions) launched against me was hard to believe and even harder to stomach. You don't want to take it personally but it's almost impossible not to when another player, a guy you had some respect for, attacks your character in the most direct and damning terms."

O'Driscoll watched from the sidelines as the All Blacks romped to victory in the final two tests.

The legacy


Amateur footage filmed by an Irish supporter emerged months after the tour, which prompted the IRB to respond with: "We are determined that such tackles are removed from the game. They're totally unacceptable and have absolutely no place in rugby."

Former All Blacks head coach Graham Henry was asked to respond to the new footage and, without watching, said: "I just think it's ridiculous, quite frankly."

Henry was asked four months after the Lions tour and he, like everyone else, was keen to move on.

We have more camera angles in high definition than ever and you would hope that if something similar were to happen today, retrospective action would take place swiftly and the right action would be taken.

O'Driscoll and Umaga met in person for the first time since it happened in Nice in 2009.

The pair spoke and neither discussed what happened in 2005.

Quotes from O'Driscoll's book suggests it's not a matter he's particularly keen to discuss.

"Can you remind us about what happened? - I'd rather not.

Do you think you were targeted, deliberately taken out? - No.

Do you think they meant to injure you? - No.

So it wasn't malicious? - No. It was two guys trying to put down a marker in the first minute. But it was incredibly careless.

Are you still bitter about it? - I'm not bitter, I'm just bored."

Would O'Driscoll have made a difference in the three tests? Certainly. Would he have prevented defeat in the series? Almost certainly not. The All Blacks were far superior in every aspect.

The saga is something O'Driscoll, and all those involved, are keen to forget about but it will surely raise its ugly head again before the next Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017.

- NZ Herald

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